Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drama Review: The World That They Live In (2008)

Grade: B

Workplace slice-of-life

What it’s about
A group of stories centered around the production of dramas for a fictional Korean television station. The centerpiece is the relationship between a pair of producers—one an established pro and the other his up-and-coming ex-girlfriend—but the lives of many other characters are also explored.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boy, Oh (Flower) Boy: The Dramas

With a premise so shallow and mercenary—young women will go out of their way to watch cute guys, dontchya know—who would have guessed that there would be more to tvN’s Oh Boy! series of dramas than broad comedy and wish-fullfilment girl porn? (Not that there would have been anything wrong with that, necessarily.)

But it turns out that each of this series’ three installments has a lot more to offer—edgy production values, nuanced characters, and real insight into what it means to be young and searching for a future in today’s world.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate the most stunning recent development in drama land: every single one of tvN’s Oh boy! shows is actually good.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Drama Review: I Miss You (2013)

Grade: C+

Romantic melodrama

What it’s about
A fashion designer and cop fall in love as they deal with their shared history, which (in the way of Korean dramas) revolves around a childhood full of tragedy, abandonment, and cruelty. They eventually realize that not everyone from their past wants them to be together.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life in Plastic: Fantastic?

Brace yourselves: this week I’m going to write about something I probably have no business writing about. (Again.)

Jezebel, one of my favorite blogs, recently posted a reaction piece inspired by a segment from the radio show This American Life. The episode was about self improvement, and it was anchored by a brief interview with a woman who had moved to South Korea to teach English at an all-girls high school. Like any true American, she was stunned to realize that people in other parts of the world don’t necessarily think the way we do: There were full-length mirrors and scales on every floor of the school she taught at. Her students used both regularly, and dreamed of the day they would be rewarded with plastic surgery for having passed their college entrance exams.

As an American who’s spent the past year using television to be a peeping tom into Korean culture, this interview and article made me uncomfortable on a few levels. First of all, both are predicated on the assumption that America is somehow different from Korea, a place where physical appearance doesn’t matter. Anyone who truly believes that—as the interviewee obviously does—is both naive and uninformed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Drama Review: In Time with You (2011)

Grade: A+

Taiwanese romance

What it’s about
As they enter their thirties, mismatched best friends—he’s an easygoing charmer, she’s an uptight perfectionist—deal with their mutual attraction and struggle with life and love.

First impression
Whimsical and wonderful, this grown-up Taiwanese rom-com seems likely to be a hit with me. I’m even willing to forgive the female lead for being involved in fashion design, because she enjoys raining on people’s parades and demanding that shoes for teenagers be practical. Huzzah!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Those Blooming Boys Next Door: FBND1

Amanda, Dong Hoon, and Jin Rak discuss episode one.

I’m still relatively new to watching dramas as they air. For most of my first year as a Kdrama zombie, I waited until shows were fully subbed and available online so I could marathon them as if they were giant movies. There’s something to be said for that approach—it’s immersive and makes it easier to follow the overarching plot. But watching a show as it airs in Korea has its charms, too.

Take Flower Boy Next Door, my current pick for watching live(ish). The Kdrama blogosphere is abuzz with discussion about this bright and funny new entry in tvN’s Oh Boy series, and it’s fun to follow along with other people’s commentary about each episode. Not being able to just hit “play” to watch the next show whenever I want also gives me time to really digest what I’ve seen.

So far, FBND has been a tasty confection—a sweet candy shell over a dark chocolate heart. Most of the dramas I’ve watched while they were airing haven’t been that great, but things are looking up: I can barely wait for this week’s episodes of to be subbed. (Which, of course, is exactly what I said at this point in Big’s run. We all know how that turned out.)

Here are some chaotic thoughts on an obviously well-ordered show.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Drama Review: Delightful Girl Choon Hyang (2005)

Grade: A-

Romantic comedy

What it’s about
A traditional Korean folktale updated and reimagined for the modern world, Delightful Girl Choon Hyang starts out with a high-school contract marriage and follows its leads from friends to lovers as they mature into adulthood, fighting to stay together in spite of the manipulations of jealous outsiders.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Obligatory Year-end Post

Guess what inspired me to start this blog?

No, it wasn’t all the amazing Korean dramas I stumbled across during the first few months of my addiction (although that helped).

It was actually the Dramabeans year end recaps for 2011, which drove me wild with envy. To have seen so many dramas! To write so authoritatively about them! To recognize actors by name, and excel at playing six degrees of Park Shi Hoo! When I read those articles, I saw unicorns and rainbows.

And now here I am, having posted on this blog at least twice a week for the past 52 weeks. In the meanwhile, I’ve watched an obscene number of dramas—new and old, good and bad—and can recognize, name, and outline the relative merits of practically every handsome young actor working in Korea today. (Next year, I’ll work on the old and ugly. Or not.) I know what I like (realistic romantic comedies with a heavy dose of melodrama), what I dislike (whimpering, useless female leads; talking heads vying for political power in funny hats), and what I want to see more of (hot kissing; see above).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Drama Review: Jewel in the Palace (2003)

Grade: A

Girl-centered historical drama

What it’s about
A brilliant, hardworking young woman grows up while navigating the dangerous political waters of the palace, first in the kitchen and then as a physician lady working in the pharmacy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Drama Themes of 2012: Who Did It Best?

One of the things I’ve noticed in the past year of of obsessive drama watching is Korean television’s penchant for repetition. Whether it was a common plot device like this year’s abundance of time traveling or a little detail like a prominently featured umbrella, 2012’s Kdramas have been nothing if not on trend.

The question is, who did it best?